Archive for July, 2016

Bursary or Bust

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

One of the meaner and crazier cuts planned by the Tory government is the proposal to axe the NHS student bursaries. There are good reasons why nursing students etc get a bursary while undergoing their training, but on 25 November an announcement was made that from 1 August 2017, new nursing, midwifery and allied health students will no longer receive NHS bursaries.

Apart from nurses and midwifes the list includes some specialities I would have to look up, but here it is in full:

Chiropodist, Podiatrist, Operating Department Practitioner, Dental Hygienist/Dental Therapist, Orthotist/Prosthetist, Orthoptist, Dietitian, Physiotherapist, Radiographer, Radiotherapist, Speech and Language Therapist and Occupational Therapist.

Currently there are awards which cover (up to certain limits) tuition fees, as well as maintenance, in part means-tested and reduced by expected contributions from parents or partners. It’s a complicated scheme, and not particularly generous, but it does allow many students who would otherwise be unable to train, particularly mature students, to do so.

Instead of bursaries,  in future NHS students will have to rely on student loans – and end their courses with large debts which will have to be repaid.

Student nurses don’t just go to lectures and take notes. Much of there time is spent actually in hospitals looking after patients just as they will do when they have finished their training. They learn on the job, and are an essential part of the provision of services for patients. They  are doing useful and necessary work for the NHS and deserve to be recompensed for it.

Because of the long shifts they work in hospital, student nurses have far less opportunity to supplement their  income with part-time work than other students.

We have a shortage of nurses and many hospitals have to advertise overseas and bring in trained nurses from abroad. We simply do not train enough. Health Minister Jeremy Hunt wants to cut the cost of training by axing bursaries, making it possible to offer more training places; but doing so will certainly make it much harder for many students to take up the places, and will penalise all those who train for these vital jobs, who will suffer hardship while training and also have to continue paying back their loans long into their careers.

Nursing isn’t a career that people go into for the money,  and it involves a great deal of work at unsocial hours. It seems unfair to further penalise them by removing the bursaries.  The protests are being led by current nursing students from Kings College, and supported by those from elsewhere as well as across the whole medical professions. The changes will not affect those currently studying, but only new students from 2017, and the protests are because they see the effect it will have on future generations of students, and also on the NHS.


Unprocessed from the 1950s

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

A day or two ago on Petapixel I read a fascinating story ‘1200 Rolls of Unprocessed Film Found‘ which took me to Indiegogo to find out more.

There Levi Bettwieser, the founder and film technician for The Rescued Film Project, writes:

Around 1 year ago, we acquired 66 bundles of film. Each bundle contains anywhere from 8-36 rolls of film, totaling what we’re estimating to be about 1,200 rolls, all shot by the same photographer in the 1950s.

Bettweiser goes on to explain how the film was extremely carefully and systematically wrapped up, although not in any truly archival fashion. But back in the 1950s people were generally pretty clueless about exactly how to preserve photographic material of any kind – and even companies like Kodak were selling colour film that we would now regard as highly unstable, and making colour prints that faded almost as fast as Wedgewood’s unfixed images on leather (which as my late friend Terry King demonstrated by making an image in a similar way, would keep for quite a few years if only briefly taken out of its black bag for the occasional viewing.)

Fortunately the photographer concerned used black and white film, which even then had fairly good keeping qualities. Although it’s still best to process film shortly after exposure, a few years of post-exposure storage in a sealed and chemically neutral environment like a film can makes little difference. I’ve still got a few films from around ten years ago, some of the last few I took, that I’ve not got around to developing. I keep meaning to process them, but somehow never seem to have the time. I sent some of them that were taken on chromogenic films off for C41 processing last year and they were fine.

The photographer who took these pictures went to considerable trouble, replacing the exposed films in the box in which they were sold. Those shown in the picture on-line are Kodak 620 Panatomic-X films, a format that disappeared in the 1990s, with film and backing paper identical to that on 120 film but wound around a much slimmer spindle. This tells us virtually nothing, as many cameras were made to use the format, from Box Brownies to more sophisticated models such as the twin-lens reflex Argus C40 and folders such as the Kodak Vollenda 620 which had a 10.5cm Leitz Elmar f4.5 lens which were capable of entirely professional results.

Putting the film back in its printed card boxes was not a good idea, and neither was including “a hand written note detailing what was shot” inside the aluminium foil which then swathed the package. Wrapping this in “athletic tape” will have helped in sealing the package, but may also have introduced substances that might damage the film. It did allow labelling on the outside of the package, which appears also to have been done meticulously. 620 film, like 120 film, could be used in different format cameras, giving 8 exposures in a 6×9 (cm) camera (or its imperial equivalent) and 12 on 6×6. That the photographer appears to have recorded that one roll had 12 exposures perhaps suggests he had more than one camera with different formats.

Further archival sins were to then pack these wrapped films into wooden cigar boxes (presumably the photographer had connections in the cigar trade, or he would have died from nicotine poisoning before finishing this work)  and then wrapping these in newspaper covered with yet more foil and tape. And then presumably put into storage.

It is certainly the work of an obsessive, though his or her motivations are unclear, and although we may suspect Bettwieser knows more, he isn’t telling. According to the Petapixel article, all he knows is that his “name was Paul and that he was a steel worker“. Certainly the work would appear to be an incredible time capsule, but we can’t really assess whether it is of any real interest, either in photographic or in social terms as so far only one of the estimated 1200 rolls appears to have been processed. The six pictures from that one roll appear to show us work that would be largely of interest to Paul’s grandchildren, though perhaps the 50 rolls that have now been sent off with reveal something of more value.

I’d certainly want to know more before making a donation to the appeal for $15,000 to get the rest of the films processed – though as I write, the project is well over half-funded with 2 months to go and seems likely to reach its goal. And unlike the Rescued Film Project I don’t believe that all photographs are worth preserving – it may well be that the best place for most of these 66 bundles of films is landfill. Others share some of my scepticism, as you can see from the comments about the project on Digital Photography Review.

On the RFP web site are the two statements:

Copyright of the collection of images on this website is Owned By The Rescued Film Project.
Duplication of Any Images Without Prior Consent is Prohibited.

Like me, you may be wondering about this, as copyright – except in some cases of work for hire, or where the photographer has assigned it – belongs to the photographer, even if they are unknown, and when the photographer is deceased it becomes a part of his estate.

I find on their web site that when  you send unexposed film to the Rescued Film Project, you have to include a signed form which states that by “donating your film you are granting The Rescued Film Project full print/publish copyright of recovered images.” In return they promise to “email you a digital copy of all discernible images for your personal use.

It’s perhaps a fair exchange for getting your family snaps free, but it does make me think that if Paul or his heirs who donated the film really thought the images were of any real worth they would not have given them away. Or if they came from some third party, although they owned the material, they may well not own the copyright, though you would need to ask a lawyer to be sure. If it turns out they are worth something, we may see an interesting court case.

The Concerned Photographer

Monday, July 4th, 2016

I didn’t buy the book ‘The Concerned Photographer‘ (or rather ‘the concerned photographer‘) when it came out in 1968 for various reasons. Possibly I was aware of its existence, and of the show of which it was a catalogue (at the Riverside Museum in New York and then touring) which I suspect got some coverage in the English newspapers, if not at the time then when it was the first show at London’s then new Photographers’ Gallery in 1971. It almost certainly featured in Amateur Photographer which I used to call into the public library to read each week in one of my lunch breaks. I can’t at this distance in time recall if I made the journey down from Leicester, where I was then living, to London to see the show, though I think I probably did, and certainly later in the decade after I moved closer to London I was a regular visitor to the gallery (and have remained a member – with slight gaps due to a chaotic membership system – to this day, despite a feeling it has lost sight of its purpose.)

The main reason I won’t have bought it back in 1968 was poverty. I was a graduate student, living on a grant and a small amount from student supervisions which came to roughly half the income I’d been earning before I went back to college. It was a more fortunate age than today’s students face, and I had just enough to live on, but there was nothing to spare. Though I was keen and interested in photography I couldn’t afford film and processing – except for perhaps one film a year taken on a short ‘holiday’ usually spent staying with my or my wife’s parents in London or Hull, or on day trips to countryside close to Manchester.

When I finally bought the book, it wasn’t for Robert Capa, but primarily for the work of Dan Weiner, relatively little of which was available elsewhere, unlike Capa and some of the others featured such as Kertesz. It’s a fairly solid book, but annoyingly designed with no page numbers, the photographer’s contributions designated by alternate blocks of black and white page edges – Werner Bischof’s pictures on white backgrounds, Capa’s on black, then Kertesz on white, Chim on black, Weiner white and finally Freed on black.

Capa’s section has I think 27 photographs, including of course his ‘Falling Soldier’, judged so important the facing page which precedes it is left blank black. Following it is a double page spread with two of his images each with the simple caption ‘D-Day, Omaha Beach. June 6th 1944‘. These are captions which break the design norm for the book – the ‘Falling Soldier’ is simply captioned ‘Spain, 1936‘ and other images follow that same pattern – under which they would have been captioned ‘France, 1944‘. It clearly positions these works as something rather special.

The book has a fine selection of Capa’s work, though perhaps I would have preferred the images to have been in chronological order rather than the seemingly random jumping from conflict to conflict which a few other images thrown in.

The book begins with an introduction by Cornell Capa, and each photographer gets a short introduction about their life, work and influence, and after the photographs there are short section in which each photographer or others comment on their work.  Capa had of course died 14 years earlier, and his comments come from his writing, I think mainly from his “autobiographical novel” written in 1946, ‘Slightly Out of Focus‘.

Only one image from D-Day is given its stamp-sized reproduction and comment:

“I would say that the war correspondent gets more drinks, more girls, beter pay, and greater freedom than the soldier, but that at this stage of the game having the freedom to choose his spot and being allowed to be a coward and not to be executed for it is his torture. The was correspondent has his stake – his life – in his hands, and he can put it on this horse or that horse, or he can put it back in his pocket at the very last minute.

I am a gambler. I decided to go with Company E in the first wave.”

We now know that Capa actually went with the second wave, and had the good fortune to arrive on a part of the beach where because of a seam in the defences –  according to military historian Charles Herrick’s account – enemy fire was ‘relatively ineffective‘. Herrick tells the story of a surgeon who landed with Capa and was also a “victim of the psychological effects of enemy fire“. But the difference between the situation of the two men was that for the surgeon, “the regimental commander quickly approached, ordering the doctor to get his medical detachment up and follow him…” Capa as the quote from him above states, had his life in his own hands – and decided to “put it back in his pocket” after a relatively short time and ten or eleven nervous exposures on the beach. He was being a good gambler – if not at that moment a good war photographer – and who can blame him. It was an error for which he atoned greatly in his other work, and his gambler’s luck was very much on his side, helped considerably by others, so far as those few D-Day images were concerned.

This post was prompted by A D Coleman’s mention of ‘the concerned photographer‘ in Alternate History: Robert Capa and ICP (3), part of the continuing Robert Capa D-Day Project.

BP and Marktown

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

We are by now rather used to hearing about various environmental disasters connected with BP, most notably the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, widely accepted as the  ‘worst environmental disaster‘ in US history. On the pages of Platform you can read their  Picture This which looks at 25 years of BP from 1989-2014, listing for each year just the major incident or political shenanigans from each year that blackens their record – beginning with the Exxon Valdez shedding between 260,000 and 750,000 barrels of crude into the fragile coastal ecosystem of Alaska and travelling around the world, including Azerbaijan, Colombia,  the North Sea, Papua New Guinea, Algeria, Ukraine, Canada, Libya and Iraq as well as the US.

The latest entry, for 2014, was as follows:

In March BP’s Whiting refinery in Indiana spilled between 470 and 1228 gallons of crude oil into Lake Michigan, a drinking water source for some seven million Chicago residents. The refinery has also been criticised for being responsible for huge black mountains of ‘high-sulfur, high-carbon risk petcoke’ along the Calumet River, a by-product of tar sands production.

Next door to that Whiting refinery is the ‘historic’ US town, Marktown, ‘built in 1917 by Chicago Industrialist Clayton Mark Sr. and was designed to be used as housing for his rapidly expanding Indiana Harbor Works of the Mark Manufacturing Company of Evanston, Illinois.’

According to an article on the New York Times Lens blog, Surrounded by Industry, a Historic Community Fights for Its Future, BP has been buying up properties in Marktown and demolishing them with the intention of demolishing the entire area,  one which (to quote from Wikipedia)

‘is regarded as an important cultural resource of architectural and historical significance. In the words of the Marktown Revitalization Plan commissioned by the city of East Chicago in 2008, “Marktown is significant as it is a major work by a significant American architect, Howard Van Doren Shaw, for its association with the driving economic force of industry that served as an identity of the region, and is representative of the planned industrial community movement of the late 19th and early 20th century.’

The Lens article by David Gonzalez looks at the photographs in this small, isolated and tightly bonded community by Alyssa Schukar, a Chicago freelancer whose work on women’s American football gained her third place in the 2014 World Press Photo for Sports feature stories.

This was a story about BP I’d not heard before, although I’ve photographed a number of protests related to their other activities, such as a protest against the BP Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline in 2006, the Canadian Tar Sands Oily-Olympics and a Picket for Colombian Oil Workers in 2010, the fabulous Rev Billy’s BP Tate Exorcism in 2011 (picture above)

up to last December’s End BP’s British Museum Greenwash, and most recently of all an image or two of Greenpeace’s splendid ‘Sinking Cities’ banners on the British Museumm’s portico last month. There are too many protests to list them all, but you can see more from a search on My London Diary for ‘BP’.